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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 9 Hansard (27 August) . . Page.. 3225 ..

MS DUNDAS (continuing):

architecture, or be customised to suit any department's specific needs. Thus, work developed for one agency can easily be carried over to another under this paradigm.

It is also simple to shift from one software development company to another if the source code is readily available. Too often, a lack of access to source code has led to an expensive duplication of effort when customised software has required modification following purchase.

Software licence fees are a significant cost for our schools and our government departments. Increased use of open source software would reduce our spending on licence fees, and the savings could be used to improve our IT capacity. Open source software also needs less sophisticated hardware, so fewer equipment upgrades would be needed, saving yet more money.

The funds that could be saved on licence fees could then be used to expand the excellent digital divide program, which teaches computer skills to people left behind by the IT revolution. Our schools would also have more money for workstations and for better IT support for teachers.

The ACT government has declared that it is keen to promote the development of the IT industry. The discussion paper for the economic white paper emphasised the development of the IT sector. The bill I present today would encourage open source software producers in the ACT to develop products for use by the ACT government, because they would know they had a decent chance of winning software tenders. From that base, our IT specialists could develop software products for sale interstate and overseas, along with the support and training for their customers.

Some companies already make it their standard practice to supply source code with any delivered product, including a subsidiary of the international IT giant Fujitsu. Changing the licensing conditions to make these products open source would not be a significant imposition on businesses that operate in this fashion.

Where the impact would be significant is in reducing the enormous sums of money currently going to a small number of large American companies. It is common in the computer industry to hear frustrated IT specialists talking about the Microsoft tax-the extra charge paid to Microsoft every time a computer is purchased, no matter how that computer is being used.

Mr Speaker, this bill is a simple one, yet it has the potential to do great things for the ACT. As I have outlined, it simply requires procurement people in public authorities to consider the alternative of using open source software and, wherever practical, to adopt open source in preference to proprietary software. This would save us millions of dollars in the long term, support the ACT IT industry, promote more democratic principles in respect of how we use computers here in the ACT and lead the way across the nation.

I commend this bill to the Assembly.

Debate (on motion by Mr Quinlan ) adjourned to the next sitting.

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